Gilt Farrowing Difficulty

Yesterday evening when we started doing chores, we were pleased to see that a gilt we had been waiting on to farrow (have baby pigs) had started.  She had two when we first checked her.

We typically like to give gilts time to have their babies on their own however, when about an hour had passed and she still only had two it was apparent that she was having trouble farrowing. We decided it was time to palpate her. It is extremely important that to palpate you use a sterile, plastic glove made for palpating.  It also very important to use plenty of lube so that you don’t damage the gilt/sows delicate tissues.

Once I had my ob glove on and well lubed, I slid my hand inside her vulva.  Immediately, I could feel a baby pig.  It was coming head first which is good but it was upside down.  Typically baby pigs can be delivered in a multitude of ways; head first, feet first, butt first, but occasionally when they are upside down it is harder for them to deliver.  This is a fairly easy fix.  I pushed the pig back in a little bit and rotated it so it was no longer upside down.  Many times this will allow the sow to deliver on her own, so I gave her more time to try.

She still wasn’t making progress so I put a new glove on and checked again.  The baby pig’s head was started through her pelvis but there wasn’t much room.  Try and try as I might I could not pull that pig.  It simply wasn’t coming!  Next it was Scott’s turn to try,  since he is obviously stronger than I am, we hoped he would be successful.  He wasn’t making any progress either.


This a picture from National Hog Farmer that depicts how we were trying to pull the pig.

During this entire time, the gilt stayed calm and continued to push.  Try as she might that pig just wasn’t coming.  We then tried to use our pig forceps to pull the pig.  No success there either.

By this point, we were really getting frustrated! One thing that we have learned about pigs is that if they have trouble the baby pigs can actually die inside the sow and become soft. Once the pigs are soft the gilt/sow can deliver them a few days later. It looked like that was the point we had reached.  This meant she would only have two live pigs.  UGH!!!  Also this would also greatly increase her chance of an infection by having a bunch of dead pigs in her.

The only thing left to try was to put a BUNCH of lubricating jelly in her vulva and pray that by God’s grace she would be able to deliver that pig.  That is exactly what we did.  I put most of a tube of K-Y lubricating jelly in her vulva.

Fast forward three hours and I woke up to it starting to rain.  I decided to go out and check on a group of pigs that were born in December. We had moved them to a new location late in the day and I didn’t want them out getting wet and cold.  On my way to check the December pigs, I stopped by the barn to check on the poor gilt.

She was still laboring but now she had three pigs nursing!!  There were a few dead ones behind her.  During a slow delivery, some of the pigs will die in utero because they aren’t delivered fast enough.  I got in the pen to remove the dead ones and saw a beautiful sight.  Between her back and the wall were 5 live pigs!  She had 8 live pigs after all that trauma!!  I moved them around so they could nurse.  They were healthy, vigorous little fellows.  God is so Good!

I am still in awe of the fact that she has 8 live pigs.  She had 15 pigs total and normally I would be totally disappointed that we hadn’t saved a higher percentage of pigs, but in this case 8 looks LOTS better than the 2 I thought we were going to have.


Aren’t they so cute?!  Mama and 8 babies doing well.

We have two more gilts due within the next week or so, with many more to follow over the next few months.  I hope that the rest of the deliveries don’t have so many complications but I am so thankful this one ended well.



*Note: Since we do not farrow in crates, assisting gilts and sows in farrowing means we are in the pen with them.  Many are calm but some are mean when they farrow or shortly after.  Care must be taken when getting in a pen with any animal during or shortly after delivery of their young!

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